Safe Harbor Credit Union: How One Institution Brought in 143% More in Loans in 2020


In preparation for 2020, Safe Harbor Credit Union set a number of reasonable, achievable goals for its lending portfolio. Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the credit union saw its business disrupted like many others. As foot traffic into the branch came to a fraction of its pre-pandemic numbers and deposits increased dramatically, Safe Harbor recognized a need for a strategic pivot in its 2020 plans.

Safe Harbor sought to deepen relationships with existing members as well as grow its member base. Additionally, the credit union wanted to differentiate its loan offerings and increase profitability of loan portfolios. To combat the coronavirus “slump” facing Safe Harbor, the credit union tapped Kasasa for help.

Kasasa partnered with Safe Harbor in 2019, and the credit union has since seen strong results from Kasasa’s reward checking accounts. The credit union expanded this partnership, putting trust in the Kasasa Loan program to reinvigorate its lending. The Safe Harbor leadership team liked the idea of a loan that could transform the lives of its members and redeploy the influx of deposits. But, due to economic changes in the pandemic, this strategic shift could not come with additional marketing spend or a relaxation of credit standards. The credit union was clear that half-baked measures would not be enough. Finally, with executive buy-in, Safe Harbor went “all in” on the Kasasa Loan making it the credit union’s default loan offering.

As a result, Safe Harbor and Kasasa got to work on revitalizing the credit union’s lending offerings. Loan officers worked closely with Kasasa’s Retail Experience Development team so that they were able to explain the features of the Kasasa Loan as an enhancement to a conventional loan. This allowed loan officers to completely reframe borrower’s expectations of how to manage their debt. All Kasasa Loans offer Take-Backs®, a feature especially attractive to members during the financial hardships of the pandemic. Borrowers are able to pay extra and accrue that extra as a balance. This helps borrowers pay off their loans faster, but if a future need arises, they are able to use their Take-Back with no penalties or changes to the terms of the loan.

With the loan officers at Safe Harbor well-versed in asking questions and evaluating each member’s financial situation holistically, the credit union was able to increase debt wallet-share. Once loan officers helped members understand how the Kasasa Loan worked, they would ask the member if they had any other debt they wished worked the same way. By asking this simple question, Safe Harbor set off a significant increase in the number of loans per member. Furthermore, word-of-mouth marketing sky-rocketed when loan officers followed up with members by asking if they knew anyone else who could benefit from this loan.

Despite an industry wide slump due to COVID-19, Safe Harbor experienced its best loan growth in years. Members began borrowing more money per loan, not out of recklessness, but because the Kasasa Loan offered them peace of mind as they navigate the new economic difficulties. Borrowers became three times more likely to open multiple loans in a single month. The credit union had $2.2 million more interest generating balances booked in Q3 of 2020 and 143% higher overall loan balances originated compared to Q3 2019.

The growth in Safe Harbor’s loan portfolio in 2020 obliterated their own numbers from 2019 and 2018, as well as the 5.25% average loan growth from all Kasasa’s current clients for 2020. Compared to 2019, Safe Harbor saw 71% higher loan balances per relationship (due to multiple loans per borrower), 54% more loans per borrower and 7% higher average balance per loan.

“We were very excited about offering a product that nobody in our market could offer,” said Stephanie Overholt, Vice President of Lending at Safe Harbor Credit Union. “We loved being able to offer members the power to continue borrowing and building their safety net at the same time. Our executive team loves the Kasasa Loan, our lending team loves it, and our members love it.”

Though lending growth has slowed in the industry overall, Safe Harbor was able to avoid the trend and saw impressive results from June to October 2020. Growing its relationship with Kasasa, Safe Harbor was able to not only survive, but thrive during the economic uncertainty of the pandemic and support its members through an unprecedented year. Giving members the ability to change how their view and manage their debt without increasing marketing investment or loosening credit standards created the ultimate win-win for Safe Harbor and members alike.

Greg Schultz is the Director of Product Management at Kasasa®, a financial technology and marketing provider based in Austin, Texas, committed to driving results for over 900 community financial institutions by attracting, engaging, and retaining consumers. Kasasa does this through branded retail products, world class marketing, and expert consulting. For more information, please visit, or visit them on Twitter or LinkedIn. 

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